Particularly poignant

Today is Father’s Day in France, and probably a few other places too. Coincidentally, it’s also the outlaw’s (my mother-in-law) birthday today. It’ll be her 93rd and her younger brother is travelling from Chippenham to visit her, which will be a lovely surprise. But this post isn’t about her, it’s about my late Father.

Obviously, no need to buy him a gift but I do like to commemorate him in some way on Father’s Day. Now, that might be with a special meal (that I know he’d enjoy) or it might be just spending time rememberng all the lovely Father’s Days we spent together. My Father’s choice of gift was always Sunday lunch with the family and we’ve certainly had some memorable ones over the years; not least the one at Le Manoir aux Quatre Saisons.

This year, since we’ve recently been back to Lake Konstanz (see next week-end’s posts), I’m going to remember all the wonderful time we spent together in Konstanz. My parents much enjoyed visiting us when we lived there and continued to visit the town and lake long after we’d left. They would go with their friends (pictured below), book the two suites overlooking the lake in the Insel Hotel and take daily trips around the lake to the various towns. The islands of Mainau and Lindau were always some of their favourite destinations.

They’d have a gentle stroll around their destination town in either Germany, Switzerland or Austria and, after eating a light lunch, they’d aim to be back at the hotel by mid-to-late afternoon to recharge their batteries before dinner in the hotel. While my beloved was working in Biberach-an-der-Riss we’d drive down to see them at the week-end and  enjoy Sunday lunch together at the Hotel Siber – oh happy days!

As well as thinking about the wonderful times we spent together, a part of me regrets the things we didn’t get to do. This was largely due to my mother’s Alzheimers. My Father wouldn’t have had it any other way but, in looking after her so wonderfully well, he neglected his own health until it was too late. There are so many places we wanted to take him but never had the chance.

My beloved, who was very close to his father-in-law, and I often look at one another and say; “You know who’d have liked/enjoyed this?” We’re both thinking of my father and, quite often, my mother too. Which was why our recent trip to Konstanz was a particularly poignant trip down memory lane for both of us.

 

40 years of Memorable Moments: Konstanz

It was only when I started to write about our recent trip to Lake Konstanz (Bodensee), I realised that I’d never really written about us living in Konstanz in the early 1990s. So I thought I’d better remedy that oversight.

My beloved was working for a very large US dental company in the UK but had forged good links with colleagues at its European HQ because he spoke fluent German, courtesy of his University sandwich year in Hamburg. He was offered and accepted a  move to Konstanz to work in its sales and marketing department in 1992.

After spending six months living in the company flat, we found a large, brand new, top-floor flat to rent which overlooked the lake in Hegne and started to make plans for our new life in Germany. Meanwhile, I was still working in London and flying to and from Konstanz each week-end, which was just a 45 minute drive from Zurich airport, while I sold our property in Chiswick, looked for a new role in Zurich and learned to drive!

It was much easier for me to fly to Zurich. The company chauffeur would drop me off at London City airport on his way home on Friday and I’d take the late evening Crossair flight to Zurich. Crossair was well-known for its ample servings of champagne (Gosset) and lovely nibbles – probably why it went bankrupt! I was part of a bunch of City regulars who flew there and back each week-end. Obviously, we had a very early start on Monday mornings but the chauffeur collected me from the airport so I was in the office by 09:00 am.

We loved living in Konstanz, particularly our spectacular view of the lake much enjoyed from our large lounge with floor to ceiling windows and adjoining balcony. Our brand spanking new flat was bright and airy, we’d installed a new kitchen of our choice and we were gradually putting our mark on the place. It had three generously sized bedrooms, one of which we used as a dining room, a massive bathroom and an enormous loft space.

I spent most week-ends and all of our holidays in and around the Lake Constance (Bodensee). In the winter months, my beloved would collect me from the airport on Friday evenings and we’d drive up into the mountains to spend the week-end skiing. During the summer months, we’d enjoy the various wine and food festivals in the towns and villages around the lake.

Our flat in Hegne was opposite the fire station which was manned by volunteers who also organised all the festivals in Hegne. Consequently, the walls of the fire station were lined with cases of wine and beer – surely a fire hazard in itself! Handily, all the festivals in Hegne took place in the parking space in front of our flat.

However, the town’s main claim to fame is its Kloster, a complex of buildings whose architectural core is the historic Hegne Castle. In addition to the monastery, this building complex also houses various educational and charitable institutions. The nuns were ever present around the village and you’d often see them on bicycles though one had a motorbike. We used to call her the “Flying Nun.”

Aside from the lake, one of the great advantages of Konstanz’s location was its proximity to Switzerland, handy to pop across for cheaper petrol and chocolate, plus Austria. To be honest, we’d have been quite happy to settle down here. It’s a beautiful spot and there’s much to enjoy around the lake all year long. My beloved had resumed playing water-polo for the local club which helped us to better integrate into the local community. In addition, there were other non-Germans also working for my beloved’s company who were only too happy to show us the ropes, not that we found it particularly difficult since we both spoke German.

Friends and family were happy to visit, particularly my parents who enjoyed their boat trips around the lake – much the best way to see everything. They had such a great time that they continued to visit the area, with their friends, long after we’d moved back to UK!

After only two years, my beloved was lured back to the UK to work as the local CEO of a major German, family-owned, dental company. Fortunately this was before I’d made the move but not before we’d sold our home in Chiswick. Meanwhile, I’d been living during the week at my youngest sister’s in Wimbledom and had to start looking for another home, albeit closer to central London, which was how we ended up in Cleveland Sq, Bayswater.

Since moving to France in 2005, we’ve only had a couple of quick visits, largely on business, to the area and a longer visit, a trip down memory lane, was much overdue. We have fond memories of our time there which we’re looking to rekindle.